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Overtime Games and Other Rich Deals Soak Taxpayers

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by Graham Lane

Published in the Winnipeg Sun, July 27, 2018

The majority of workers toil in the private sector. Leaving aside owners, bosses and professionals involved, free enterprise employment often pays less and provides fewer benefits (and security) than those working in the public sector (federal, provincial and municipal).

At one time, fading away in the mist of time, public sector workers were paid less than private sector workers although they were compensated with better benefits and security. Now, many in the public sector make more, in addition to enjoying security and better pensions and benefits.

Of course the taxpayer provide the largesse of income and benefits flowing to public sector workers. But, did you know the obtuse games being played within these dysfunctional systems that can make the advantages of working in the public sector even greater?

The overtime game magnificently rewards unionized public sector workers at mostly invisible  costs to Winnipeg property owners and the Province of Manitoba’s already gouged taxpayers.

Firefighters, paramedics, police, nurses, provincial jail guards and Hydro electricians are front of the line in bolstering their annual wages and pensions through the overtime game. Of course, for the extra largesse to work for these public sector workers requires  ‘helpers’ – the politicians and managers, all complicit in playing the game

Consider the case of a nurse with permanent part-time positions at two Winnipeg hospitals. He or she manages to take overtime shifts that provide even more pay as the shifts come on statutory holidays. Such a nurse could easily pocket six figure annual pay before income tax. And, how about the police officer or jail guard that claims a sick day that results in overtime for his working friend, with the ‘favor’ to be returned by him getting an overtime gig when his friend calls in sick.

Management, generally weak, go along, as do the politicians that allow union contracts providing workers time and a half and double time for pay after a public sector’s already short work week. How much does this form of gaming the system cost property owners and taxpayers? No one knows, no one even bothers to count.

What about doctors, receiving income from their private practices through MHSC (the Province’s health insurance agency) while pocketing healthy stipends from hospitals and the University of Manitoba? How about university professors: great salaries along with mouth-watering pensions and benefits- including administrative and research leaves? Not subject to any real oversight, some picking up consulting gigs, obliged to teach as little as one course a year.  Quite the life. Tenure provides salaries and benefits without risk of layoff or dismissal – no mandatory retirement for them.

Consider judges, and their hefty incomes, good benefits and working conditions. Displeased with their salaries, they bargain with governments like longshoremen supposedly used to do. Tired of being on the bench, head for supernumerary status – full pay, covering vacation periods and taking on projects from time to time. For some lawyers, being embroiled in the day to day combat of practicing law, going on the bench is like having been awarded a spot in heaven.

We can start fixing these and other cozy, invisible rip offs by finding and supporting political parties and candidates that will, at least, acknowledge the game and the costs that accrue for taxpayers.

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